Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music by John Fogerty. Little Brown and Company. 416 pages. 2015. Audiobook read by John Fogerty.
I was so excited to see that John Fogerty, the incredible singer and songwriter behind Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) and acclaimed solo artist would be writing his autobiography. And I was not disappointed. As an added bonus, Fogerty reads the audiobook version of the book, which adds a lot to the experience. This book will be loved by CCR/Fogerty fans, as he tells his side of the story, which conflicts with the stories told by others, most notably his former bandmates. As I went through the book, I enjoyed listening to the CCR and solo albums he discusses in detail in the book. It’s an autobiography about his dreams coming true in music (and ultimately in life), but also details the heartbreaking betrayal of his record company (Fantasy) and his bandmates, which included his brother Tom.
Fogerty grew up in California. His father was a writer and a dreamer whose dreams never translated into success. His father had a nervous breakdown and his parents would divorce. Both were alcoholics. Mom would later eventually remarry.
Fogerty was influenced early by Black music (R&B, gospel). Other early music influences were Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Duane Eddy, Rick Nelson, and Pete Seeger. He also writes of his respect for the music promoter Bill Graham. He would begin playing music with drummer Doug Clifford and bassist Stu Cook, who he met in junior high. John played guitar. His brother Tom was four years older than John. Their first band was the Blue Velvets, and they started by playing instrumentals.
They would sign a fateful contract with Fantasy Records in 1964. All of the band members were underage at the time, except Tom. The contract, and Fantasy owner Saul Zaentz, would cause John much pain and suffering over the coming years. The label would change the band’s name to the Golliwogs for their first single. The guys hated that name. Fogerty married Martha Paiz in 1965. He was drafted and shares his strong feelings about the Viet Nam war and more recent wars that the U.S. has been involved in, which he writes are all about money.
The band would eventually come up with a new name. Fogerty’s explanation of how he came up with the name “Creedence Clearwater Revival” was interesting. Their cover of “Susie Q” would be their first hit. The band would become known for two-sided hits, not just the hit on one side and a throwaway song on the flip side.
I really enjoyed Fogerty describing his thought process in coming up with what would be later well-known as the CCR sound, and also the process he goes through when writing songs. He admits to being a perfectionist. Although Tom was the original lead singer of the band, John would begin taking over those duties and the band would become “his band”. He would eventually take on the role of manager, publicist, writer, singer, arranger and producer for the band. This would lead to internal problems a few years later.
Of “Proud Mary”, Fogerty writes that he feels that the song was “given to him”. He knew when he wrote it that it would become a classic. He also writes that perhaps he has been someone else in a previous life, indicating that he could believe in the concept of reincarnation.
He writes that Green River was his favorite CCR album. When you look at the songs on that album, it has more hits on it than many band’s Greatest Hits albums do. It is a rock and roll classic. He writes that the first three CCR albums were incredibly made for a total of less than $5,000.
An important part of Fogerty’s story was when Saul Zaentz went back on his word to tear up the band’s original contract for a better one should the band become a success. Instead, he offered to invest their money in a shady Bahamas entity (Castle Bank), which Fogerty would find out years later had ties to the Mafia.
A key turning point in the story was a band meeting that took place before the recording of their album Pendulum. Despite being the biggest selling band in the world at the time behind the Beatles, the other band members demanded to write and sing their own songs. John reluctantly agreed, but Tom still left the band, leaving CCR to carry on as a trio. This led to the sad ending of the band, with the album Mardi Gras. Each band member did three of their own songs and the album was a critical failure. A trio tour followed. Doug and Stu engaged in unrestrained debauchery (women, drinking, damaging hotel TVs, etc.). Fogerty left the band after the tour. That was a difficult time in his life. He separated from Martha and lived with Lucy in Denmark for a year. He would reunite with Martha for another 14 years before they eventually divorced. They had three children together but Fogerty writes that their relationship was dysfunctional.
After the breakup of CCR, Fogerty admits that he was not in a good place. For the next several years, he would be involved in lawsuits with Fantasy records and his band. He admits that he was not a very nice person and he drank too much. This impacted his music as well, hitting a low point when Asylum Records rejected his album Hoodoo. Since then, he has asked for forgiveness from many who he encountered during that time.
The album Centerfield in 1985 was a huge comeback success, both critically and commercially. It was a “one-man band” album, with Fogerty playing all of the instruments and doing all of the vocals, something he has done on several of his albums. When he wrote the song “I Saw it on TV” for the album, it was the first time he had been able to write a song in eight years.
He would meet future wife Julie Kramer in a bar in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1986 after a concert – Julie was 26 and Fogerty in his 40’s. Both were married at the time with Julie going through a divorce. Fogerty turns over parts of the book to Julie at this point as she tells their story from her perspective.
Tom died in 1990 of AIDS. They tried to reconcile while their mom was still alive, but failed. At the end of his life, Tom would tell John that Saul was his best friend. Despite all the hurt, John now forgives Tom and says that he loved his brother.
For about 15 years, up until 1987, John wouldn’t sing any of his CCR songs.
Blue Moon Swamp was another triumph, though it took ten years overall, and five in the studio, to make. This caused a good deal of stress with Julie and the children. He writes that “Joy of My Life”, written for Julie, was the first true love song that he had ever written. The album would win a Grammy Award.
He writes about when CCR was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and why he refused to perform with Doug and Stu. They, along with Tom had sold their rights to Creedence songs to Zaentz, allowing Creedence songs to be used (in movies, on compilation albums, etc.). This went against their agreement that all band decisions had to be unanimous. Later, Doug and Stu would form Creedence Clearwater Revisited, which led to more lawsuits.
Wrote a Song for Everyone, his latest album was Julie’s idea. He reached out to artists he loved and did his songs with them. Rolling Stone magazine gave the album a 5-star review.
He wraps up the book, which includes a good amount of profanity, with how he would like to be remembered. He writes that love is the most important thing in the world and that he is the luckiest man in the world because he found Julie.
Fogerty’s solo career has been inconsistent, with some excellent albums (Centerfield, Blue Moon Swamp, Revival, and Wrote a Song for Everyone) and some that did not match his incredible talent (Eye of the Zombie, Déjà vu All Over Again and the label rejected Hoodoo).
In the Epilogue, Fogerty writes about “Mystic Highway”, one of the two new songs from Wrote a Song for Everyone, and the song he states that he has worked on the longest in his career. He writes that the song is very spiritual and reverential (and includes a great gospel verse by the way), with a “whole lot of God in there”. The song is spiritual, though not from an orthodox Christian perspective, but more of an “Oprah spirituality”. He writes that there are all kinds of different ways to think of what God is. He states that the entire universe is God, and therefore we are all God. In the song he sings that he’s lately begun to wonder how it is all going to end. The stars in the heavens have been there to light his way on his often painful journey. Although he doesn’t know where he’s going, he’ll probably get there anyway. He sings that he is heading to the light, and asks the mystic highway that he is on to take him home.
I really love John Fogerty’s music and thoroughly enjoyed this book. His music has meant so much to me over the years. I can still remember buying the “Up Around the Bend” single at a “five and dime” store in Hayward, Wisconsin on a family vacation in the summer of 1970. We were fortunate enough to finally see him in concert on the tour Willie Nelson opened for him that he describes in the book. His is an incredible story, and I’m so glad that he has found peace and happiness with Julie and his family. I pray that he will also find Jesus, the true light.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
- Ichthus by Sinclair Ferguson and Derek Thomas. Banner of Truth has just released this new book. They write “To be a Christian, according to the New Testament is to know Christ. But who is He, and what is the meaning of His life? In Ichthus Sinclair Ferguson and Derek Thomas answer these questions by taking us on a tour of nine key events in Jesus’ life and ministry. Their aim is to help us both understand and share the confession of those early Christians who drew the fish sign.” Can’t wait to read this one.
- Messy Grace Review. Rosaria Butterfield reviews Caleb Kaltenbach’s book Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others without Sacrificing Conviction.
- Christianaudio Free Book of the Month. The Free Audiobook of the Month for November is Sex and Money by Pastor Paul Tripp. From their website “It grieves our Lord when there is sin in the church. Headlines of Christian leaders’ sinful failures in areas of sex and money create national news. Sex and Money by Pastor Paul Tripp was written to address these issues and provide clear biblical counsel in these areas.”
- Word + Life: 20 Reflections on Prayer, the Christian Life, and the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. My friend Kevin Halloran (blogger who works with Leadership Resources) has written his first book. Check it out and look for my review soon.
- Ephesians for You. The latest book in the excellent “For You” series is Ephesians For You by Richard Coekin, to be released November 10. Watch the author, John Piper and Tim Keller discuss the book in this less than four-minute video.
- 50 Crossway Books J. I. Packer Thinks You Should Read. J.I. Packer is known for endorsing a lot of books. The following is a list of all of the endorsements that J. I. Packer has written for books published by Crossway, with an introduction by Sam Storms, author of Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit.
- 5 Best Books on Spiritual Growth Matt Brown provides this list of his top five books on spiritual growth. I’ve read three of them (by Piper, Bridges and Bloom).
- Don’t Waste Your Life on Bad Books. Collin Hansen writes “Earlier this year The Gospel Coalition partnered with a group called Hubworthy so our leaders could recommend to you our favorite and most formative books.”
- We Cannot Be Silent. Tim Challies reviews Albert Mohler’s new book and writes ”We Cannot Be Silent is an important and timely work that addresses urgent matters, and Mohler serves as a trusted guide to many of our deepest, most difficult, and most perplexing questions. The book will equip you to better understand this world and to live as a Christian in it.”
- 20 Quotes from Albert Mohler’s New Book on the Sexual Revolution. Matt Smethurst shares these nuggets from We Cannot Be Silent, which I am reading now.
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at
Chapter 11: Blessed are the Peacemakers
- There is nothing more fatal than for the natural man to think that he can take the Beatitudes and try to put them into practice. Here once more this particular Beatitude reminds us that this is utterly impossible. Only a new man can live this new life.
- According to the Scripture, the trouble is in the heart of man and nothing but a new heart, nothing but a new man can possibly deal with the problem.
- There is nothing I know of in Scripture which so utterly condemns humanism and idealism as this Sermon on the Mount, which has always apparently been the humanists’ favorite passage of Scripture.
- The great need of the world today is for a number of peacemakers.
- What is it, then, to be a peacemaker? He is one about whom we can say two main things. Passively, we can say that he is peaceable, for a quarrelsome person cannot be a peacemaker. Then, actively, this person must be pacific, he must be one who makes peace actively. One who not only does not make trouble, but who goes out of his way to produce peace.
- What does this involve and imply? To sum it up in a phrase, it means a new heart, a pure heart.
- Here you see how it links up with our definition of the meek. Before one can be a peacemaker one really must be entirely delivered from self, from self-interest, from self-concern. Before you can be a peacemaker you really must be entirely forgetful of self because as long as you are thinking about yourself, and shielding yourself, you cannot be doing the work properly. To be a peacemaker you must be, as it were, absolutely neutral so that you can bring the two sides together. You must not be sensitive, you must not be touchy, you must not be on the defensive. If you are, you will not be a very good peacemaker.
- The peacemaker is one who is not always looking at everything in terms of the effect it has upon himself. Now is not that the whole trouble with us by nature? We look at everything as it affects us. `What is the reaction upon me? What is this going to mean to me?’
- The first thing, therefore, we must say about the peacemaker is that he has an entirely new view of himself, a new view which really amounts to this. He has seen himself and has come to see that in a sense this miserable, wretched self is not worth bothering about at all.
- Indeed, can we not agree that one of the best tests of whether we are truly Christian or not is just this: Do I hate my natural self? Have you come to hate yourself, your natural self? Can you say with Paul, `O wretched man that I am’? If you have not, and if you cannot, you will not be a peacemaker.
- You must have an entirely new view of the other person. It also means an entirely new view of the world.
- He is a man who is ready to humble himself, and he is ready to do anything and everything in order that the glory of God may be promoted.
- Now that is the theory. But what about the practice? It is in practice that you prove whether you are a peacemaker or not.
- First and foremost it means that you learn not to speak. If only we could all control our tongues there would be much less discord in this world.
- The next thing I would say is that we should always view any and every situation in the light of the gospel. When you face a situation that tends to lead to trouble, not only must you not speak, you must think.
- You must take the situation and put it into the context of the gospel and ask, `What are the implications of this? It is not only I who am involved.
- The moment you think of it like that you are beginning to make peace. But as long as you are thinking of it in a personal sense there will be war.
- The next principle which I would ask you to apply would be this. You must now become positive and go out of your way to look for means and methods of making peace.
- And the last thing in the practical realm is that, as peacemakers, we should be endeavoring to diffuse peace wherever we are. We do this by being selfless, by being lovable, by being approachable and by not standing on our dignity.
- Let me sum it all up like this: the benediction pronounced on such people is that they `shall be called the children of God’. Called means `owned’. `Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be “owned” as the children of God.’ Who is going to own them? God is going to own them as His children. It means that the peacemaker is a child of God and that he is like his Father.
- To be a peacemaker is to be like God, and like the Son of God. He is called, you will remember, `the Prince of Peace’, and you know what He did as the Prince of Peace.
- You finish with self, and then you begin to follow Jesus Christ. You realize what He did for you in order that you might enjoy that blessed peace of God, and you begin to desire that everybody else should have it.